There are a whole bunch of people (and I am included) that are seriously concerned with how driverless car technology will interface with those pesky cyclists and erratic pedestrians who seem to amble in undetermined ways along city streets. The most efficient way for driverless cars to operate is without any interruption-no bicyclists, no pedestrians. And that has been a worry in terms of thinking of street design, and the potential for pedestrians to be even more marginalized on city streets.
But Mercedes has some new info to help us feel even more uncomfortable about this-“When they crash, self-driving Mercedes will be programmed to save the driver, and not the person or people they hit. That’s the design decision behind the Mercedes Benz’s future Level 4 and Level 5 autonomous cars, according to the company’s manager of driverless car safety, Christoph von Hugo. Instead of worrying about troublesome details like ethics, Mercedes will just program its cars to save the driver and the car’s occupants, in every situation.”
Yes, it’s the next generation of the Trolley Problem. “ Say the car is spinning out of control, and on course to hit a crowd queuing at a bus stop. It can correct its course, but in doing so, it’ll kill a cyclist for sure. What does it do? Mercedes’ answer to this take on the classic is to hit whichever one is least likely to hurt the people inside its cars. If that means taking out a crowd of kids waiting for the bus, then so be it.
The moral confusion is deepened when we consider that autonomous cars may save millions of lives that would otherwise have been snuffed out by careless human drivers. That’s no consolation if a Mercedes chooses to use you as an airbag to save its owner, but maybe you’d already have been killed a few years before if a particular human driver hadn’t been replaced by a driverless car.”
Moral of story? If you see a new generation Mercedes coming down the road, it’s probably a good idea to stay on the sidewalk.